Why buy it?
First Brazilian churrasco hit our shores, then Argentinian asado. It’s no surprise, really, that we lapped up all the flames, smoky scents and tender charred meat: Aussies love barbecues.
Much as it does here, the terms encompass not only a style of cooking, but a social event. In South America, fire pits and grills burn from midday to night as friends and families while away the hours together over food. The tradition of barbecuing stretches back hundreds of years on the Latin continent to the plains of southern Brazil, Argentina, southern Chile (Patagonia), Paraguay and Uruguay, where cowboys known as gauchos herded their cattle. Today, it is ingrained on the cultural psyche of these vast nations.
In South American Grill, author Rachael Lane takes a light-hearted look at the countries’ diverse barbecuing traditions, from Brazilian skewers and Argentinian salsas to Peruvian ceviche starters. If you’re after something meaty (pardon the pun), this cookbook isn’t loaded with historical facts, but a read from start to finish paints a delicious picture of this food ritual, with practical recipe introductions, crisp, bright, inviting images and easy, approachable dishes.
Traditional South American barbecuing requires a rotisserie (churrasco), large metal splays (asado) or a grill plate (parilla) set over hot coals, or an outdoor wood-fired oven (horno). For ease and accessibility, Lane’s recipes are written for home-style gas barbecues. She also provides menu suggestions – “lazy Sunday afternoons”, “Friday night with your mates”, “family gatherings” and “a traditional Brazilian churrasco feast” – to help sort through the 75-strong recipe collection and feed a large crowd, much as they would in South America.
Meat lovers, welcome to seventh heaven. The array is tantalising, from asado negro, a Venezuelan classic of slow-cooked whole scotch fillet with a sugar, vinegar and Worcestershire glaze, to espetinho de frango com cachaca e limao, succulent Brazilian chicken skewers marinated in the country’s signature liquor, cachaca (made from sugar cane juice), with lime and chilli.
Most surprising dish
Thankfully, South American barbecues ain’t all meat, and Lane’s book covers the spectrum of dishes that make up the food style, including vegetable sides, drinks and desserts. Humitas, a popular side throughout South America similar to Mexican tamales, use fresh corn instead of dried corn meal for a husk-wrapped parcel with a tempting filling that looks a lot like delicious creamed corn.
To cook whole chickens or fish such as trout quickly, evenly and with juicy flesh and crisp skin, butterfly them first. Try pollo a la parrilla com limon y romerito (butterflied lemon and rosemary chicken) and truta grelhada com vinagrete (butterflied trout with vinaigrette) for step-by-step instructions.
Carnivores and barbecue lovers, casual weekend entertainers and South American enthusiasts.
Cook the book
South American Grill, Rachael Lane (Hardie Grant, $36.95, hbk).